“Gender and right to be forgotten” – 2017.12.20 IGF Geneva

by | Jan 4, 2018 | Free Speech, Open Blog | 0 comments

Women have often been cited as the potential beneficiaries of the right-to-be-forgotten jurisprudence through the examples of non-consensual disclosures of revenge porno, past sex-related occupations, and sexual identities.  However, these issues can be dealt with the existing norms of privacy respecting people’s right to access the information that has been made public available voluntarily or through legitimate means.  We as women do not need RTBF.

Conversely, just as other movements addressing discrimination and inequality, women’s movements also need truth and transparency in order to have open ethical discourse on the real status of the off-line world that they would like to change. We cannot afford a rule allowing people, including those who have committed the acts of sexual discrimination, hate, and attacks on women, to moderate that ethical discourse by manipulating search results about themselves, sometimes the only available and the more impartial source of relevant social knowledge compared to the male-dominated legacy media.  Every instance of gender discrimination is a public interest event, and we cannot afford a rule that people can suppress their inconvenient truths about their past by default unless public interest is affirmatively proved.

What must be done is vigorous prosecution and legislation of existing norms protecting women: anti-discrimination law, laws on violent sexual crimes, laws on non-consensual distribution of sexual images, and hate speech laws.  Rather, RTBF interferes with such efforts by allowing perpetrators to suppress evidence and ethical discourse about their conduct before they are brought to legal scrutiny, especially in Asia where gender discrimination is ingrained broadly and widely in various social and cultural institutions untouched by law and we need all the force of ethical discourse to tramp it out as we can get.


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